Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Tom Ginsburg

First Page



The relationship between "legal culture" and the practice of international arbitration has received increasing attention in recent years. Many see arbitration as a meeting point for different legal cultures, a place of convergence and interchange wherein practitioners from different backgrounds create new practices. Some have suggested that this process has led to an emergent "international arbitration culture" fusing together elements of the common law and civil law traditions. Others see arbitration as a locus of conflict among traditions or as competition among various players.

This comment contests the view that the current state of convergence in arbitration is properly considered a cultural phenomenon. It argues that the phenomenon of convergence is driven primarily by economic rather than cultural factors, and that claims of an arbitration culture reflect the anticompetitive impulse of those already in the business. I argue that convergence in rules and norms is better understood as the result of competition to capture network benefits in the rapidly expanding field of international commercial arbitration.